Make writing worth your time, says Jennifer Nielsen

Jennifer Nielsen

Jennifer Nielsen

“Writing is such a diverse field with so many options and possibilities, it’s easy to choose the route with the immediate payoff, or the one that best strokes your ego, but if they don’t get you closer to what you want most, then it’s not worth your time.” — author Jennifer Nielsen

I love this quote from author Jennifer Nielsen, whose The False Prince series I could read over and over and over again. Her books are filled with twists and emotion and deep characters that couldn’t possibly have just rolled off her fingers so perfectly in a first draft.

Writing is not easy. Or rather, I’ll say storytelling, because a lot of people think writing a novel is the same as a shopping list. But storytelling involves creating great characters that live and breathe as much as the reader, locations that feel like you could step right into them, and plots that are more complicated than a teen’s love life.

I’ve heard writers say they’re ready to be done with their manuscripts and to send them out into the world, either to agents or editors or through self-publishing. While I completely understand that feeling, I always urge them to hold off, put it in a drawer and work on something else for a while. Sometimes, our desire to give the story to someone else is because we’re not sure what more to do with it, but that doesn’t mean it’s ready and can be the best that it can be.

To put our best work out there, we have to go the hard route, the long route, the frustrating route. Because that’s the route with the most rewards: characters we never want to say goodbye to, settings we wish we could live in ourselves, and stories so complicated, we’d love to stay up late unraveling.

Jennifer Nielsen will be speaking and teaching at the Austin SCBWI conference in March. I can’t wait. Hope I see you there.

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